` VigilanceVoice

September 13, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 366
The Love Growing From The Ashes Of 9.11

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, September 13--The Terrorist attack on America has sprouted a new crop of feelings in the USA.  The leading indicator of these "new feelings" is a desire by Americans to become a closer family.

        Evidence of the trend toward a more united family has statistical validity.   Harris Interactive Poll reports that in November 2001 more than 6 in 10 Americans felt a need to spend more time with family.   By May 2002 the number climbed to 7 out of 10.   Half of Americans reported that they actually have spent more time with their families.
      Since the goal of Terrorism is to induce Fear, Intimidation and Complacency in its victims, this and other data suggest a backlash to Terrorism.  
       Vigilance, Terrorism's counterpart, is the act of guardianship over the children of a society, expressed by family members providing them Courage to fight Fear, Conviction to block Intimidation, and Right Actions to overpower Complacency.
      When families come closer together, it is a sign that Vigilance is growing in the ashes of Nine Eleven.
       The Harris poll data is reinforced by American Demographics magazine.   In the aftermath of the September 11 Terrorist attacks, its data shows that activities that have become more meaningful include: "spending time with family," (77 percent); and "serving the country," (67 percent).  
       One of the justifications for attacking America bandied about by the Terrorists was the claim America was the seat of international materialism.   The American Demographics study showed a shift away from that idea.   Only 30 percent said "getting ahead" means more to them than family.  Similarly, "retiring young" and "making lots of money" fell into minority categories, 27 and 19 percent respectively   

     The communitarian aspect of America has also been measured on the upswing by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC).   Before the attack, about half of all Americans thought that people were "fair" and "helpful," 52 and 46 percent.   Only a third, 35 percent, found others "trustworthy."   
      NORC data shows that post Nine Eleven, the number of people who say "fair" and "helpful" people around them rose to 2 of 3, and 41 percent thought people were trustworthy.
      Perhaps the strongest vote for "community" was the answer to the question about "who Americans felt closest to."   More than half, 51 percent, replied "my fellow Americans."
      I've lived in New York City for past two and a half years.   I can attest to a change in this city.   The disenfranchisement of people prior to September 11 has dramatically changed.   There is a unification among city inhabitants, which I measure by my guts rather than numbers. 

       And the cause of that change, in my opinion, are the children.
       Almost everywhere you looked in Manhattan in the following weeks of Nine Eleven, the most prominent messages from all over the world were the letters and drawings from children.
       Their crayola drawings, and innocent love for peace, coupled with their "pure sorrow" for the loss of so many, washed through the city, breathing a sense of community with the young, reminding all the adults that the children of the world loved New York, loved the people here, regardless of race, color, creed, or economic station.

            It was comments such a little boy, a friend of my daughter, who looked up at the blank space where the Twin Towers had once been and blurted out angrily, "Who stole the Towers.  Get them to put them back, Mommy!"

           Vigilance is only truly in focus through the eyes of the children.   It is hard for adults to see past rage, anger, retaliation, revenge because the adult world is narrow, forced by experience into grooves of opinions one chooses to cherish for they bring comfort.
     But children have a much wide vision of the world.   They don't see through the prejudices and bigotry that adults accumulate.   Their eyes are flowers.  They see the world filled with promise not horror.   They don't understand violence, or pain or suffering as adults do--in forms of anger and hatred and the urge to seek an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth.

           When a child asks, "Why did all those people have to die?"--or--"Are the Terrorists going to take you and Daddy away, Mommy?"--we are forced to think before we answer.   We are forced to think in Vigilant rather than Terroristic terms, and answer the child's questions with compassion rather than passion.
     I believe the children of the world have been the keys to strengthening the fiber of America, for through their thirst to understand the reasons for the attack, and to resolve their questions of security, the only logical conclusion has been for parents and loved ones to speak to a child's "heart," to employ the "language of the heart" so that the child realizes it is his or her family that will protect them, his or her neighbors to whom the child can seek refuge should it be necessary, and his or her community that will form a Circle of Vigilance around the children should some event occur that endangered them.
      Children also became more precious after Nine Eleven because we realized Terrorists were indiscriminate killers.   They didn't pick out their targets but rather included all within their crosshairs--women, children, the old, the helpless.
      While other nations knew this, America had been blind to foreign invaders.  Now, we realize that we are just as vulnerable as any community in the world to violence cast upon our children.   It makes us close ranks.  It forces the "Duty of Vigilance" upon us as never before.

        The statistical polls show a surge in "family unity."   Unfortunately, this unity has been at the cost of many lives.   It's seeds, however bloodied, have started the growth of something vital to our nation's future.
       That element is the local community.

School children in West Branch Iowa send a "Message of Vigilance" to the world

        Long before we centralized our government and established a federal system that has grown more and more powerful, dwarfing the Voice of the community, we all relied on one another for everything.   We were a Village of Vigilance, bound by common needs and common purposes.   Our children were most important asset, for they took what we had built and kept building it.
      As time and modernization grew, the children left the farms and went into the city.  The family heritage became lost in mobility.   Parents put their parents in "old people's homes," and children flew on occasion to celebrate holidays, but "family" became nuclear and parents' roles were to provide college educations for their children, and nice neighborhoods to live in, and "things" kids could enjoy.

     We forgot about the "heart" of the family in lieu of the "things the family had" or "could do."
      I was one of them.  I bought a beautiful home in Laguna Niguel, California, and put $50,000 into a wonderful swimming pool, and created a Disneyland for the children to enjoy.  We went many places and saw everything one could see.  The kids dressed in the best of clothes, went to the best of schools, for I believed a child should have what I didn't.
      We didn't participate with the "family."  Very little contact existed between grandparents and grandchildren, uncles, aunts and cousins.  We were highly nuclear.   My children know very little about their "kin" for there was no daily, weekly or monthly contact--just an occasional visit, obligatory at best.
      In ways, I regret the lack of contact with family.  My children have grown up only knowing their "mother" and "father."   They had no other family support systems.    Part of the reason was we lived in California, and my parents lived in Oregon, and my wife's in Montana.  

      Family has become vital to me now.  I see it as a unification of people, who, like myself, once chased the tail of the dog--the financial rather than the emotional--equity in life.
      Here in New York City my grandchildren have both sets of grandparents nearby, uncles, aunts, cousins aplenty.    My son-in-law is Irish and his family has lived in New York for many years, established roots, and are proud of their Irish-American heritage.   The family gets together multitudes of times each year, at holidays, on the kids birthdays, on the grandparents birthdays, for St. Pat's day, to announce a pregnancy, or to celebrate a birth, or a baptism.
       I enjoy the community of family even though it is strange to me, for I didn't grow up with family closeness, but I realize its richness by watching my grandchildren enjoying a large Circle of Family Vigilance, receiving input from Great Uncle Bob, Great Uncle Marty, Uncle Ben, Great Aunt Mary, Auntie E, Aunt Jeannie, Uncle Jamie, Aunt Berta, Great Aunt Jeanne, Grampa Joe and Nana - and the list goes on.

      Some are Republicans, some are Democrats.  Some are quiet, some are loud.  Some are lawyers, some are nuns, some are retired, some are struggling.   Some teach, some are sick.   Some have bad habits, some have good habits.   It is a potpourri of human difference all meshed into common unity--oneness out of differences.
       Our grandchildren are loved.   They know they are loved, for the Circle of Vigilance is too large for them not to know that.
        I think that's what the polls are indicating.
        Statistically and demographically they reveal the need for "Family Unity;" they quantify a return to the concept of "Family of Vigilance"--the collection of loved ones who keep watchful eyes on the young, herding them in the right directions so that they might be insulated from harm.
        Terrorism, in part, caused this shift.   It smacked many of us in the face and forced us to think through what was the most important values in our lives--the cars?--the houses?--the bank accounts?--the 401k?--the ranking on the social ledger?--the height of our office in the building?--or, perhaps, it was the most simple of things--thinking more of the children's emotional and physical security than our own!
        Perhaps we were shocked into a higher state of Vigilance by Nine Eleven.  I was.  Maybe the nation was shoved into recognizing that all life is tertiary, that it can exist one moment and then be gone the next, and unless we live it fully and richly each day through and with the others we love, we might miss the whole point of human existence--the selfless caring of others.
        I've heard so many people say about the ones who were lost that Second Tuesday of September, 2001--"I only wished I had said 'I love you' that morning before he/she left for work.'"      

        Today, those words are spoken more frequently than ever.   Today, Terrorism has triggered the evolution of a new form of Family Vigilance.   It grows daily as we remember the true lesson of Nine-Eleven--that we are all Sentinels of Vigilance--that we all belong to the Family of Vigilance. 
        I believe  that Nine Eleven is misnamed as Patriot's Day.  It's true handle should be Family Vigilance Day--the day we remember to love our children and their future emotional and physical security more than we love ourselves.
      Unfortunately, we owe that tribute to the Terrorists.

Go To September 12 - Ground Zero: "Tomb or Garden of Vigilance"

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